In this roundtable discussion, Ryan Andrews quizzes PN superstars Nate Green, Krista Scott Dixon, and Brian St. Pierre about nutrition, body composition, supplements – and their taste in trashy music.
I work with a bunch of freakin’ gurus. Seriously.
Of course, at our annual PN gatherings, I get to score free advice from them. But this time, I decided to share the wealth.
I conducted an actual interview and wrote it up so everyone could benefit. You can thank me later.
This roundtable interview includes:
Brian St. Pierre: Brian’s an expert on all things related to health, eating, and exercise. He is a coach, a popular presenter, a writer, and a proud dad.
Krista Scott-Dixon: Krista has a PhD. She has managed a non-profit food magazine, coached countless people away from the land of high body fat, published books, and in her spare time she maintains a kick-ass blog.
Nate Green: Before the age of 30, I was figuring out how to move out of my mom’s basement. Before the age of 30, Nate published a best-selling book. He’s written for or been quoted in every fitness publication that matters, and his mission is helping people live the life they want to live.
When these people talk, I listen. Let’s get to Part 1.
What are the top three areas where people go wrong with their eating?
Brian St. Pierre
Too many people go too low carb for too long.
Going very low carb can be a very effective short-term strategy for weight loss. However, for long-term health it’s not in most people’s best interests to consume less than 100 grams of carbs per day for more than a few weeks at a time.
I’ve seen far too many people who end up with thyroid dysfunction, elevated cortisol levels, depressed testosterone, and elevated estrogen from following this plan.
This is even truer for highly active and/or leaner individuals. The more active you are, the more carbs you need to function at a high level.
In my experience, a more balanced intake of all macronutrients is the best approach. Carbohydrates and insulin do not make you fat. Expending less energy than you consume does.
[For more on this topic, check out Brian’s comprehensive article: Carb Controvery: Why low carb diets have it all wrong]
Eliminating too many food groups simply because they read Skinny Bitch, The China Study, or Wheat Belly.
While it is true that gluten, dairy, and anti-nutrients in some plant foods (for example, the lectins in beans, and phytic acid in grains and nuts, among others) can be problematic for some people, in reality the proportion is small. Around 1% of the North American population has celiac disease, yet more than twice that number of people are on gluten-free diets, with gluten-free foods being a seven billion dollar business in the US alone in 2012.
While celiac disease and lactose intolerance can be diagnosed, if you really want to see how you respond to a food, it’s probably easiest to start with an elimination diet or a diet challenge. Simply remove the offending food/food component for two weeks and then slowly add it back and monitor how you feel.
If you don’t feel any different, you are likely fine. If it bothers you, then keep it out.
Just don’t extrapolate the results of your experiment and your needs to everyone else.
Focus on eating mostly real, whole, minimally processed foods, do the challenge diet for any foods you feel might bother you, and then roll with the results.
Not following the KISS principle.
People are often looking for some trick, or make their nutrition overly complicated to try and get results.
“Well I only have carbs after I work out.”
“I eat cottage cheese before bed for the slow-digesting proteins, but no carbs.”
“I am practicing intermittent fasting, carb back loading, while eating Paleo and taking 16 different supplements.”
In reality, nutrition does not have to be this complicated. I am a huge advocate for the KISS principle.
In many ways, I blame the fitness industry for people’s confusion, as everywhere you look there is someone promising results if you would just eat their way, follow their recommendations, skip this food, skip this meal, take this supplement, and so forth.
The real trick is to relax, understand it doesn’t have to be this hard, eat a diet composed of mostly real, whole, minimally processed food only until satisfied, exercise regularly, and get sufficient rest. Repeat.
Over-thinking things and creating overly complex “rules.”
Keep it simple. Keep it flexible. Keep it real.
Rules and restrictions lead to blowouts and binges, feeling deprived, anxiety, and just way too much mental real estate devoted to the wrong things.
Under-feeling things and tuning out their body cues.
“Listen to your body” is a cliché now, unfortunately, and most people don’t know what the phrase actually means. It means that you must be able to sense in – physically – to the changing sensations in your body that give you important information about your biological needs.
We ignore those cues now, or have forgotten how to hear them. Or we simply can’t hear them against the din of “information” and the workings of our thinky brain.
Giving eating too much gravity and shrinking their perspective.
Stay loose and easy with it. If you can keep it simple and devote yourself to learning, hearing, and truly respecting your body’s signals, then that’s all you need.
When you focus too much on the details, you lose the big picture.
You might be mowing the lawn with your house on fire – drinking açai smoothies or popping green coffee bean extract or not eating after 7 pm – when really, all you need to do is learn when you’re truly physically hungry, and when you’re physically satiated.
When you over-focus on your food, eating habits, and body image, you shrink your world and become a very limited human being. You use food and eating and focusing on body composition as a way to escape the real world and real feelings.
And in the end, you don’t get what you really want, which is to feel good in your body, soul, and spirit.
Thinking they have to eat perfectly 100% of the time.
Stay focused on making good food choices, but realize that every now and then you’re going to slip up or choose an “unhealthy” option. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up and think everything is lost. Instead, clean the slate and take the next positive step.
Eat a piece of complimentary bread at the restaurant while trying to cut carbs? No big deal. Have the waitress take away the bread so you won’t be tempted to take more. Then order a nice salad and some protein. Problem solved.
Not eating mostly whole foods.
This is more for people who are into building muscle, being athletic. Protein isn’t just protein. In other words, a scoop of powder isn’t the same thing as eating some chicken. Two scoops of greens powder isn’t the same as eating a big salad.
When you’re in a rush, sure, grab a bar. But make it an “every once in a while” kind of thing.
Drinking calorie-containing beverages without thinking.
Most people could drop a few pounds and instantly improve their health by becoming aware of the calories they’re drinking, and either reducing or eliminating them altogether.
Things like bottled sodas, juices, and teas are the most common. But also lattes, beer, and coffee-shop drinks like chai.
Finish the following sentence: The key to my health & body comp success is…
…consistency and sanity.
I eat well consistently, but I am also not crazy about it.
I have some dark chocolate most nights for dessert. I have a glass of red wine most nights with dinner. When we go out to eat on the weekends I will eat the bread that they serve before dinner. I eat some carbs even if I haven’t just worked out. I used to be heavier and do none of these things, yet I am leaner now.
I have learned over time how to incorporate these elements into my routine, which allows me to better enjoy social situations, have more pleasurable dinners with my wife, and simply worry less – all while maintaining, and debatably, improving, my health and body composition.
…keeping it simple.
Keeping it real. Keeping it life-affirming instead of life-constraining.
Trying to make the best choices I can in each moment, and understanding that life is about compromise.
Chasing joy and the fulfillment of my deepest principles, rather than self-discipline or rules.
…sharing meals, workouts, and conversations about what’s important in life with friends and family.
What has been your worst supplement experience?
I tried Tribulus Terrestris back in the day in college, as it promised to increase my testosterone production and therefore my muscle mass. Instead it just gave me pimples.
Oh god, I remember back in the mid-1990s when everyone was into the ECA stack — ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin. This was a stimulant combo that was supposed to get you great fat loss.
Now, the doses were pretty high, because they were designed for huge male bodybuilders. So you’d take 25 mg ephedrine / 250 mg caffeine and a baby aspirin, 2-3 times a day.
Just for reference, a regular cup of coffee has about 100-120 mg caffeine. So that was like slamming 2 cups of coffee plus throwing a major stimulant on top.
I thought I was going to explode out of my skin after I took that stuff. Every time the phone rang, my ribcage disintegrated.
And then there was this stuff that the late Dan Duchaine was into around that time as well. DNP — dinitrophenol. It was in diet pills till the late 1930s when it was banned because of fatal hyperthermia. It’s also used as an herbicide. We experimented with that as well. Boy, were we stupid back then.
I once took a pill that gave me a rash on my ass. I stopped taking it immediately and everything was fine, though.
Finish the following sentence: The most embarrassing song on my iPod is…
…probably “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston. My wife loves that song and plays it often. My almost two-year old daughter is now in love with it too and requests it often, screaming out the chorus and dancing with her baby. It is a joy to watch.
…Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. One day I’m going to find the scuzziest biker bar in Tennessee and karaoke that bad boy.
…Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
That wraps up Part 1 of the Roundtable. Next time, we’ll be talking about workouts, favorite supplements, inspirational quotes – and we’ll pry open their freezers and kitchen cabinets to discover their deepest, darkest secrets.
Like ice cubes and kale chips.
Eat, move, and live… better.
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